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30 ideas for the future

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By Jon Bell, Oakley Brooks, Susan G. Hauser, Brian Libby and Jennifer Margulis

Leaders and innovators across the state weigh in on the future of Oregon business.

Teach the children

Tim Boyle, President and CEO
Columbia Sportswear

Fix Oregon’s education system — and the Interstate bridge bottleneck — and the business picture in the Beaver State will brighten quite a few shades in the next three decades, says Boyle, who famously moved his family’s business from Portland to the friendlier business climes of Beaverton in 2001. Otherwise, there won’t be much to attract new businesses to the state. “The reason that we’re here and that Nike is here is very serendipitous,” he says. “It’s because we grew up here, not because we sought out the best business climate. You can’t take for granted that that will continue.”


Power to the rural people

Pat Reiten, President and CEO
Pacific Power

Pacific Power may be headquartered in the urban heart of Oregon, but it serves customers in 31 of 36 counties across the state, including many of the rural corners. And that — along with fixes to the state’s tax system and with electric utilities playing a larger role in powering Oregon’s transportation sector — is where Reiten sees a key piece to Oregon’s success in the coming 30 years. “Great rural leaders will create new jobs,” he says, “and industries outside of the urban core and good infrastructure investments will help make that happen.”

The Austin method

Jim Piro, President and CEO
Portland General Electric

If Portland, Oregon, becomes a little more like Austin, Texas, over the next 30 years, Piro thinks the business climate here will be in much better shape. He points to the Texas city as a fine example of one that has banded together — public officials, private businesses and the university system — in a concentrated effort to create new jobs while bolstering existing businesses at the same time. “That’s the kind of environment we want here,” he says, “where you bring business and the education and government systems together to create a common voice to attract businesses.”


Better Partnerships

John Kitzhaber, Governor
The State of Oregon

Thirty years ago, Kitzhaber was a state senator facing a recession deeper than the one Oregon is in now. The state dug its way out of that hole in part by intentionally focusing on attracting and growing high-tech companies. For a solid future, he believes Oregon must now take a similar approach and focus on natural resource and traded-sector companies; not just attracting or growing them, but on making sure the capital they generate stays in Oregon. “The state first and foremost needs to be a partner in these efforts,” he says. “I think if the state can create a clear and predictable regulatory environment that encourages reinvestment in the state of Oregon, I think we’ll have a bright economic future.”

One word — exports

Tamara Lundgren, President and CEO
Schnitzer Steel Industries

Looking out 30 years, Lundgren sees one key to Oregon’s business future: exports. It will be exports, not consumer spending, that drive the economy, and the large manufacturers that focus on exports will in turn support and grow smaller businesses in Oregon. “In an ideal world,” she says, “Oregon would become a diversified export powerhouse that moves beyond our traditional boom-and-bust economy to a more secure future.”





Brenda Ray Scott, CFRE
0 #1 Brenda Ray Scott, CFRE 2010-12-23 11:39:04
This article offers valuable perspectives on the changes needed to make the next thirty years Oregon's best. While it seemed that there was a consensus around the economic, public education system, and revenue system challenges faced by our state, there didn't seem to be consensus about the solutions. The nonprofit sector has been added into this discussion because it bridges the commercial i.e., for profit and government sectors. Let's frame these issues in the larger context:

Tax structure: Until we reform what we tax and how we collect those taxes, we'll continue to ride the revenue roller coaster. Sales tax, anyone?

Education system: Funding problems are only a portion of the story of a system where the performance doesn't exceed expectations. Could we consolidate smaller school districts into larger? Could we quit giving inordinate amounts of resources to schools especially in Portland Public Schools that continue to struggle? What can we do creatively to keep the focus on a impactful classroom experience.

Nonprofit organizations: These organizations play a significant role in our state economy. According to the Nonprofit Association of Oregon (NAO) (of which I am an affiliate), "There are over 22,000 registered nonprofits in Oregon. Together they employ over 160,000—roughly 12% of all Oregonians working in the private sector." That number doesn't necessarily reflect other grassroots organizations that aren't formally registered or faith-based groups. These organizations do everything from providing shelter to the homeless to delivering meals-on-wheels to staging that world premiere adaptation of a Shakespeare play. Of course paid staff numbers don't reflect the thousands of volunteers who work with paid staff to provide vital services every day. Nonprofit organizations in all cases receive charitable contributions from all sectors of the economy. Some of these same organizations receive fee for service funding from government to provide vital services. These organizations especially suffer when the economy is not growing: a greater request for services and less resources offered to provide them.

Manufacturing: All of that creative class and "creatives" stuff is great for some. Until we bring manufacturing jobs back to Oregon i.e., things that we export, we will continue to struggle.

With the New Year comes the opportunity to shape Oregon's future and remake our economic landscape.
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